Are Criminals Mad or Bad?

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There is a contentious issue in the field of criminology whether criminals are taught how to commit crime or whether they are have a mental dysfunction that makes them impulsive and aggressive. This is known by psychologists as the normal/pathological debate. In this debate this essay shall argue that the majority of serious crimes are committed by criminals who are psychopathological.

Psychopathology can be best described as having a personality disorder which is brought on early in childhood and is present long term in social and interpersonal dysfunction (Catchpole, Gretton & Hare, 2004). Persons with psychopathy are characterized with having grandiose, manipulative, forceful and cold-heartedness and display superficial and labile emotions (Catchpole, Gretton & Hare, 2004). They are incapable of forming relationships, principles, and goals and lack empathy, guilt, and remorse. They are also described by being sensation seekers, irresponsible and ready to violate social and legal norms (Catchpole, Gretton & Hare, 2004).Three main arguments are presented to show that criminals are indeed mad or pathological. First is that genetics generate the criminal to offend rather than learning those behaviour in the family setting. The second argument is that psychopathy can evolve from adolescents who show signs of having conduct disorder or attention deficit disorder. The last argument is that psychopathy and anti social behaviour is linked to abnormalities of the central nervous system.

The first argument is that criminals are pathological and their genetics is a major reason why they offend rather than learning criminal behaviour from their parents. In the 1970’s it was established that less than ten percent of persons committed more than 50 percent of all crimes. This provoked researchers to further investigate the origins of the career criminals (Moffin, 2005). The media has also drawn attention to families who have a majority of members who are criminals which leads to a general statistic that fifty per cent of all crimes in a community is committed by less than ten percent of the families in the area (Moffin, 2005). In the 1990’s the nurture debate was put under heavy criticism furthering the genetic link within crime. Moffit (2005) described the points discrediting the nurture debate included: environmental measures are predisposed by genetic factors; an individual’s genes influence the environment they encounter and environmental influences do not seem to explain the likeness among individuals growing up in the same family. Yet there were still objections to the genetic theory and this lead to arcane research findings which were not repeated. The findings suggested that the link between genes and the propensity to commit criminal acts as dubious (Appelbaum, 2005). Newly conducted research discredited these claims and further research found that behavioral genetics is a untapped science which will change the face of the criminal sector and mental professionals who will play an important role (Appelbaum, 2005). The new enthusiasm came from a report from the Netherlands. It was reported that several males in a study had a syndrome of borderline retardation and abnormal behaviour which included a disturbance in the regulation of impulsive aggression. These men were missing the activity of an enzyme called monoamine oxidase (MAOA) (Appelbaum, 2005). This enzyme is important in the functioning of breaking down many of the brain’s key neurotransmitters. Further genetic analysis revealed that the men had a mutation on the X chromosome in the gene that code for (MAOA) (Appelbaum, 2005). Further studies were conducted on the relationship between aggression and the mutated gene in Dunedin and also yielded significant results. The study was interested in how the abuses of children affected the antisocial tendencies of participants with high or low (MAOA) (Applebaum, 2005). One interesting finding of the research found that...
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